John and Michael loved their toys.
John’s favorites were the cars. He had tiny little toy convertibles and wind-up race cars and even a monster truck that could drive over the top of the other cars. The pride of his collection, though, was a remote control Indy car. It was bright yellow with a red stripe down the side and could take corners at high speed. John had saved up all his money to buy that car, and he took good care of it. His dad, who loved how happy John was when he was playing with these toys, encouraged him to keep collecting cars, and he showed him pictures of engines and explained how they worked and which models of cars had the best engines. Many of John’s favorite moments were taking apart his model cars with his dad and learning how to put them together again.
Michael’s favorites were the airplanes. Anything that could fly fascinated him. He collected prop planes and jets, helicopters and even a blimp. His favorite was a remote controlled model of the original Wright Brothers airplane. His father gave it to him for Christmas, and he kept it safe on a high shelf, only taking it down to fly it when the weather was perfect. On those days, though, he would stay outside from morning to night, flying his airplane and learning to make it do tricks. Often his dad would join him on those days, loving every minute of Michael’s happiness with the toy he had given him. The hours spent with his dad flying his plane were the best of Michael’s childhood.
John and Michael grew up. Their toys became more sophisticated with time, and they learned new ways to enjoy them. In their teen years, they learned to build the more difficult models. They spent hours building miniature engines that really worked. They collected rare editions. Their dad continued to encourage them in their pursuits, knowing that these toys were excellent preparations for the future.
Finally the boys turned 18, and their father had prepared a special surprise for them. For John it was a car of his own, a classic that would need some work to be in pristine condition but was drivable and had a wonderful history. For Michael, it was the lease of a small prop plane and a series of flying lessons. Their dad was so excited when the day finally came that he could take them outside and show them their gifts. He had been waiting so long for them to be old enough to really drive and really fly, and he couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces the first time they did.
The morning of their birthday arrived. John and Michael were both up early, working on their latest models and speculating about what new models their dad would have bought them to celebrate. When he came in and asked them to step outside, though, the boys were confused. They asked their dad to just bring the presents into their playroom. They didn’t want to leave the projects they were working on, and this room was the most comfortable for opening presents anyway. Their dad just grinned and said they really had to come outside to see their presents. It took some convincing, but finally they agreed to come and take a look.
Their dad held his breath as John and Michael came out of the house and saw the car and the plane parked on the front lawn. He waited for their shouts of excitement and glee. Instead, the boys’ faces fell. They mumbled a thank you but neither boy moved toward his amazing new gift. After an awkward moment, the dad asked what was wrong. The boys were a little ashamed to admit the truth, but since their father had always been so understanding, they finally told him.
“This car is old and rusty,” John said. “My models are so much more collectible.”
“But you can actually get in this one and drive!” His dad said.
John just shrugged and looked longingly back toward the house where his shiny collection waited.
“That plane looks dangerous,” Michael said in his turn.
“But I have the best teacher to show you how to fly it,” his father said, “and you’ll get to actually soar through the air!”
Michael shivered and thought about how safe he was with his remote-controls.
Out of respect for their father, both boys agreed to sit in their new vehicles, but neither would turn the ignition. As soon as their dad released them, they hurried back inside to their cozy playroom to keep working on their models.
At first, their dad thought they would get used to the idea of having a real car and a real plane, but they didn’t. Weeks went by, and the boys continued to ignore the chance to drive and fly. Instead they spent their days inside with their toys. Their dad was so disappointed. He tried telling them stories about the joy of driving and flying. He tried showing them how he could do both. He tried showing them pictures and videos. The boys enjoyed watching them, but still had no interest in actually getting into a car or a plane.
Finally, in frustration, their dad came into the playroom one morning and began packing up all their toys and models.
“What are you doing?” the boys cried.
“I’m taking your toys away. You aren’t children any more. It’s time to move on to real things.”
“How could you be so cruel?” John asked.
“We thought you loved us!” Michael yelled.
And of course, their dad said, “I do.”
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:11-12 NIV